'Garner can be a very good midfielder' - Mata backs 'clever' Man Utd youngster for stardom

Juan Mata Manchester United 2020-21
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The Spaniard is confident that a man currently on loan at Watford will become an accomplished senior player as his career progresses

James Garner can be "a very good midfielder", according to Juan Mata, who has backed the Manchester United youngster for stardom.

Garner joined United's academy ranks way back in 2009, and slowly worked his way through the club's youth system before graduating to the senior squad in 2018.

The 19-year-old has since appeared in seven first-team matches for the Red Devils, but only one of those outings has come in the Premier League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ultimately decided that sending Garner out on loan was the best thing for his development, and he subsequently joined Watford for the duration of the 2020-21 campaign.

The English midfielder, who has already taken in 10 Championship appearances for the Hornets, recently expressed his admiration towards Mata when asked to name the best player he has played alongside to date at Old Trafford.

“I’ve played with some top, top players. I have to say Juan Mata is class," Garner told Watford's official website.

“Everything about him – his touch, his pass, how he speaks to you on and off the pitch – he’s just a real nice guy.”

Mata has now responded to his team-mate's comments by expressing his belief that the teenager is capable of reaching the top level if he continues on his current trajectory.

“He is a good friend, that’s why he speaks so well of me!” the Spaniard told The United Review . “I always thought he is one of the players who, if he keeps going and keeps improving, in the way he was doing in the Academy, he can be a very, very good midfielder.

“I really like him; the way he plays on the ball, his cleverness, his way of looking forward, looking for a pass and also his attitude off the ball. So, whenever he was here, I always tried to encourage him and said what I believed he could be as a player.

“I always tried to motivate him and give him confidence as I think, when you’re that age, you need confidence and trust - not only from the manager but also from your team-mates.

“I wish him all the best at Watford and I am sure he will do well. He’s a great guy and a very good player, as I’ve said before, because he keeps improving every day.“

Garner will be back in action with Watford when they take in a trip to Bristol City on Wednesday, while Mata is currently preparing with the rest of the United squad for a Champions League meeting with Istanbul Basaksehir the day before.